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Rwanda’s Mountain Gorillas Population Is Growing

People oftentimes hear about various species becoming endangered and great lengths being taken to protect the numbers that are left. However, because such instances tend to be so distant and far away, many think that the efforts are useless. That’s why the mountain gorillas of Rwanda have been such a different case.

For generations, the gorillas have been profiled in National Geographic magazines, nature shows, TV specials, books, magazines and more. And as a result, unlike many other threatened species, the Rwandan gorillas have been watched and seen, year after year. Much of that exposure has been due to the work of Dian Fossey, a naturalist and scientist who put herself with the threatened gorillas, both to study them and protect the animals. Because of her work, Rwandan gorillas became visible and, more importantly, became a priority for the world. That made a difference.

When Fossey first started, the gorillas were down to 254 individuals, a miniscule number given they were the last of their species in the entire world. Amazingly, that number has now almost tripled. Further, there is now an additional 400 more in adjacent Uganda as well. It has taken decades, and Fossey’s work triggered a massive response partnership with government, scientists, conservationists, and human communities in the vicinity. The results have produced a chance of survival for the gorillas, something they didn’t have when Dian Fossey got started.

Locally, the mountain range that makes up the home area for the gorillas is known as Virunga Volcanoes. However, it was Fossey who gave them the title of the Gorillas in the Mist, a name that stuck and became popular in spreading awareness about the endangered animals.

Dian Fossey has since passed, but many dedicated personnel continue her work locally with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, a non-profit committed to the gorilla’s research and protection. That was well after Fossey herself spent 18 years plus working practically alone before her work gained attention. She was part of a critical group in anthropology, and shared work with names like Jane Goodall as well.

Today, the gorillas are part of a government-protected sanctuary. And they are not isolated in obscurity. Instead, the government allows groups of visitors, limited to a handful per trip, to travel with an expert and see the gorillas in person. The experience is both an income generator for additional protection as well as a chance for people to be educated in person about the Rwandan gorilla colony in its home. Additionally, the income helps the local villages as well, which goes a tremendous way in preventing poaching, a key activity locals were engaged in to make money when there was no protection and black market demand for gorilla body parts was in high demand.

There’s no question that the gorillas would not have survived had it not been for the popularity popular attention towards the animals. And, while some will complain that the monetization of the animals is just capitalism corrupting things again, the same income has been providing the resources to both protect the gorillas as well as help them grow in numbers.



New Zealand Embraces Wildlife Revival Amidst Conservation Craze

Kevin Wells



We are increasingly living in environmentally aware times. As more and more consumers turn to companies that embrace environmentalism, it is becoming increasingly clear that the world is in the middle of its conservationist craze. Nowhere has this been better embodied than in the capital of New Zealand, Wellington. Since the inception of Zelandia, a fully-fenced urban eco-sanctuary, Wellington has been embracing an explosion of wildlife and a passion for animals that has seemingly changed the entire city.

Let’s take a closer look at Zealandia as we seek to better understand the conservation craze taking over Wellington.

Welcome to Zealandia

The implementation of Zealandia has helped Wellington experience an explosion in the wildlife that harkens back to its state of yesteryear, long before the arrival of humans and pests such as rats and birds that came along with them. Zealandia is the world’s first fully-fenced urban eco-sanctuary and it is just a ten-minute drive from downtown Wellington. Zealandia seeks to emulate a part of Wellington’s past, bringing a slice of nature back to life reminiscent of the area some 700 years ago.

James Willcocks is the Project Director for Predator Free Wellington, a group that focuses on a community-wide effort to eradicate pests in the area. Willcocks spoke in an interview regarding Zealandia and its impact on the surrounding area. Willcocks said, “In this era where there are so many negative signals from the world – global species decline, COVID, climate change – there’s something people can do in their backyards.”

Willcocks and the team at Predator Free Wellington are focused on making the nation free from predators such as stoats, weasels, and rats – as well as other problematic predators in the area. In getting rid of these pests, Willcocks has been instrumental in helping to rejuvenate Zealandia.

Danielle Shanahan is the Chief Executive at Zealandia and they were quick to emphasize the work being done on a local level. Shanahan said, “I don’t think anyone could have predicted this level of success in terms of the bird community.”

Thanks to the efforts of Zealandia and Predator Free Wellington, Shanahan says, “Species that have been gone from this region for over 100 years (have returned).”

New Zealand has experienced many conservation success stories in recent years, with the most notable among them being that of the endangered kaka. The endangered Kaka is a large green parrot that faced extinction due to habitat loss and predation. Another similar success story in the rehabilitation field is that of the Tui, and the kereru pigeon.

Local sightseers are reveling in the ecosystem revitalization that Zealandia has been working on. Not only have bird encounters increased in the region, but marine animals have even returned to the water of the nearby harbor. Fur seals and dolphins are exceedingly common, while orca will arrive several times throughout the year to feed on stingrays.

Dianella Biaggo of the Wellington City Council said, “It’s pretty extraordinary when we have orca visible from our downtown buildings.”

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Start-up Plans to Use Miracle Tree to Address Climate and Hunger Issues

Kevin Wells



“Miracle trees” known as Pongamia, which can thrive in parched deserts and produce goods akin to olive and soybean oil, are the goal of startup Terviva.

Canary Media’s Eating the Earth blog examines the link between our dietary choices and the climate in which we live.

It would be a miracle if the world could be fed without frying the world. We’d have to find a way to produce far more food while consuming far less land. We’d also have to plant a lot more trees if we wanted to lessen the quantity of atmospheric carbon while also increasing the level of carbon stored on Earth.

It appears that a miracle has occurred.

This tropical tree, known as Pongamia, has agricultural superpowers that make it look like a regular tropical tree. However, unlike soybeans, it can generate far greater nutrition for every acre than soybeans, making it a viable alternative to soybeans.

Even on the most deteriorated terrain, it may thrive without the use of herbicides or irrigation. Due to its ability to remove both carbon and nitrogen from the atmosphere, it rarely necessitates the use of fertilizer, which has the additional effect of speeding up climate change.

With this in mind, it can be said that it is the ideal crop for a planet that is becoming increasingly hot and hungry while also experiencing a severe pollution problem from agricultural pesticides. Modern farming is under fire for contaminating and depleting soils, but Pongamia can help stabilize and regenerate the soil.

While agriculture is responsible for one-third of global emissions, Pongamia farming reduces emissions by sequestering roughly five tons of carbon annually per acre.

Pongamia is a reforestation crop that can rebuild deforestation products like palm and soy oil with no need for the use of chemicals, diesel tractors, or even add water. Pongamia is virtually a response to prayer for the earth. In a warming world, it’s an incredibly hardy, self-sufficient tree that can thrive in the harshest conditions, even amid a jungle.

Pongamia, which has been growing wild in Australia and South Asia for many thousand years, has just recently been domesticated and reimagined as a power crop in the US. Even so, if we’re going to reach the objectives of the Paris treaty while expanding agricultural output by 50 percent for feeding 10 billion individuals, we’ll need some revelations.

A lack of familiarity with Pongamia suggests that this column won’t be a continuous stream of positive news about the world’s agriculture sector. As a result of devastating depletion in Africa and other countries and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the global food supply is in jeopardy.

However, the harvest is truly awe-inspiring and extraordinary. For the sake of humanity, it may be a boon to the globe. Tervita, the Oakland-based business attempting to make Pongamia accessible to the general public, also has a fascinating and amazing narrative to tell.

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Dolphin River Show Being Used to Inspire United Nations to Do More For Oceans





For many years, the United Nations has been trying to get the entire world to come on board and protect the oceans and their resources. So far, many nations have joined the effort and there have been significant improvements, but there is still a long battle ahead. A Dolphin Show in Lisbon is proof that this is doable.

At a United Nations Conference on Oceans being held in Lisbon in the last week of June 2022, delegates may find insight into their actions to conserve our oceans by staring through their windows and seeing a pod of dolphins romping in the river.

In recent years, as pollution has decreased, the number of dolphins that swim into Lisbon’s Tagus River mouth from the Atlantic Ocean has increased dramatically, as well.

When Bernardo Queiroz started organizing dolphin-watching expeditions 10 years ago, “we started seeing wildlife on a more frequent basis,” he explains.

This is a significant increase in the number of days he sees dolphins over the previous 10 years, he claims.

The goal of Queiroz’s tour company is to raise public awareness about the value of environmental preservation.

Upwards of 120 countries’ top administrators and scientists will convene in Lisbon, Portugal, for the United Nations Ocean Conference, which begins Monday.

The United Nations remains hopeful that a summit that begins Monday can resuscitate attempts to achieve an international accord on ocean conservation.

The high seas are unprotected by any extensive legal structure. Oceans encompass 70 percent of our planet’s surface and are a major source of food and income for many millions of people. Activists have referred to them as the world’s largest ungoverned territory.

As a result of climate change, pollution, and acidification, among other factors, the seas are under “serious” threat, according to the United Nations.

Oceans as well as their reserves could be better protected and conserved by the adoption of a declaration at the conference, even if it is not legally binding on those who sign it. On Friday, the proclamation is expected to be ratified.

Meanwhile, the Treaty of the High Seas officially called Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction, also known as the Treaty of the High Seas, remains out of their grasp.

As a global convention, the Treaty of the High Seas codifies worldwide law on the high seas, also termed “international waters.”

During the Law of the Sea Convention, it was among four treaties drafted (UNCLOS I). A later acquisition was permissible under the terms of the four agreements made on April 29th, 1958, and effective on September 30th, 1962.

The majority of Soviet-bloc and NATO countries, as well as most OPEC and Arab league countries, had signed it as of 2013, but significant exclusions included South and North Korea, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria.

1982’s UNCLOS III replaced the High Seas Convention with various new notions in maritime boundary law, such as Exclusive Economic Zones.

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Restaurant’s Regular Customer Trades Valuable Painting for Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Kelly Taylor



Most people have or make a grilled cheese to achieve a full stomach. They don’t expect that a melted cheese combination with pan-fried toast will turn into a small fortune. However, that was the case for one couple who focused on making and providing as many grilled cheese sandwiches as possible in a business day.

However, the perfect grilled cheese sandwich didn’t happen yesterday or last week. Instead, the recipe that made Irene Demas a name on a map started some 50 years ago in London, a major city in Ontario Province. At the time, Irene and her husband had just been married. Tony Demas was trying to find a break in real estate, but it was Irene who saw a different path in food. The two talked and decided on a location that was going to give them a start as a restaurant. They named their first eatery The Villa.

However, neither of them had worked in food, much less commercial kitchen food preparation, even as a short order cook. So, Tony started off the venture, but within a few hours he asked Irene to step in and cover the kitchen. So, Irene started off with what she knew best, how to make grilled cheese sandwiches. It worked out well since that was the only thing that Irene knew how to make anyways, aside from boiling some water in a pot.

Of course, grilled cheese snacks weren’t the only menu, and Irene did end up investing time in a culinary school to understand more about what to offer as well as how to make it well. In doing so, Irene developed a reputation for her cooking, and even got profiled on a local TV show. However, the grilled cheese sandwiches continued to be Irene and Tony’s standby signature meal, which the locals kept coming back for more. That, in turn, helped bring in the cash that kept the business going.

Interestingly, one of their regular customers was a pair named John and Audrey Kinnear. And, amazingly, they were quite interested in trading John’s artwork for lunch. In the 1990s, Irene and Tony had no idea who they were really talking to at the time. The Kinnears were simply local patrons and friends. Bartering seemed reasonable given the fact that Demas’ liked John Kinnear’s art and the Kinnears definitely liked Irene’s sandwiches.

Over time, Irene and Tony ended up serving the Kinnears on a regular basis, providing daily meals even for John in between his painting stints. In return, the Demas’ started picking up a few pieces here and there. One particular painting John gave them in trade for grilled cheese sandwiches covered a $25 tab and it was personal as well. John had painted his interpretation of The Villa, both as a payment and gift to the Demas’.

Much of John Kinnear’s work was in watercolors, soft and delicate but also eye-catching. Many of the images covered the local countryside or animals common to the area on farms or recognizable wildlife. As it turned out, however, John Kinnear’s work became far more popular over the years. And, for Irene and Tony Demas, the paintings that John provided them as food payment ended up being worth more than the meals provided, a lot more.

When all was said and done, the paintings that Irene and Tony collected from the Kinnears ended up years later being worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in the fine art world. Consider it dividends on a very delicious grilled cheese sandwich serving.

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Muskegon Museum Gets $12M donation for Creation of Female Artist Wing

Renee Yates



Muskegon, Michigan, appears to be a little island in a sea of blue. There is also the Muskegon Museum of Art, which sits on the riverside. It’s a medium-sized organization that was established in 1912 and has a collection of about 5,000 works of art.

Kirk Hallman, the museum’s director, avoids using grandiose language when discussing the museum’s goals. MMA, on the other hand, is in the midst of some major changes. A large contribution from Elaine Melotti Schmidt and Steven Alan Bennett, collectors located in San Antonio, will make it one of the country’s few permanent museum display spaces exclusively for female-identifying artists.

Gifts totaling $12 million comprise 150 artworks from 115 artists plus a cash portion of $1.5 million for the construction of an entirely new museum wing dedicated to the work of female artists.

Elaine de Kooning paintings, as well as Artemisia Gentileschi and Mary Cassett, are included in the collection of works that have been given to the museum. The Gentileschi, for example, will be on display year-round, as will other works from the collection, according to Hallman. Additionally, the gallery will hold unique exhibitions by female artists of all disciplines.

The gift comes at a time when the museum is undergoing a 26,000-square-foot expansion project, more than doubling its current size. In early 2024, the project is projected to be completed.

It appears that the awareness of females in the realm of art is increasing. This year’s Venice Biennale has made the initial feature of the majority of female artists, and there has been a wave of corrective retrospectives for both current and deceased women artists. In some cases, these are encouraging new research, identifying institutional knowledge gaps, and in others, boosting confidence in the commercial market possibilities.

Despite this, the art industry as a whole and museums in particular have a long way to go in achieving gender parity and equality. Since Linda Nochlin’s groundbreaking piece “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” was published in ARTnews in 1971, art historian Maura Reilley has documented how little progress has been made in the museum representation of female artists over the decades.

Studies conducted in the last few years have yielded relatively modest results. In the archives of 18 major American museums, 87% of the artists were men.

Bennett and Schmidt claimed that this was the motivation behind their collection. Their collection of “figurative realism” artworks began in 2009. The masterpieces in their collection show that the couple’s concept of the genre is flexible, as some fragments, such as the de Kooning, simply suggest the female form.

Bennett Prize, an open-call, jury-judged competition for female painters of any age or skill level who are working in relative obscurity and whose artwork has auctioned for $25,000 or more but are not qualified, was launched by the Bennett Prize collectors in 2018. The victor gets $50,000 to put on a solo show, making it the greatest sum of money given to female artists in the history of the competition.

To begin, the winning show is presented at the MMA before being toured across the country. However, the museum is left to rely only on the integrity of its archive after each special display concludes and the people disperse.

It wasn’t until the initial covid-19 spike in 2020 that Bennett and Schmidt began to seriously consider giving any of their collection.

‘Morality was on my mind,'” Schmidt recalled afterwards. It became clear to us that the works needed a permanent home as we got older.”

Collectors are concerned about securing the collection they’ve worked so hard to build, according to Bennett.” Museums don’t aim to collect the idea of a single collector; they want to gather specific works. A lot of the modern works we had acquired addressed the gaps in Muskegon’s female artists when we began chatting with the city.

There were no “fussy” directors at the MMA and the Bennett Prize had been well-cared-for by the organization, according to Schmidt’s description of the MMA’s board of trustees.

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